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December 2009

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Colorado Public Radio’s Unveils Branding Strategy

By Bob Schenkein

Colorado Public Radio (CPR) has recently implemented a new branding strategy, based on an initiative that was launched this spring working with Darwin and Design & Image, Denver-based brand strategy and visual imagery firms.

The new brand is a reflection of CPR’s evolution as a 40-year-old public broadcasting organization. The strategy behind it is based on a process conducted over six months, which included research with focus groups of listeners who listen to news and/or classical music.

“Building upon our mission, values and vision, a key goal in creating this brand was to position CPR in a way that differentiates us from other sources/options for news and music,” said CPR Vice President Marketing Bob Schenkein.

“We created Colorado Public Radio’s new brand platform so that it works today, and into the future, placing equal emphasis on Colorado and Public Radio,” stated Beth Barbee, president of Darwin. “The brand is independent of any specific mode of delivery or genre of content—it stands for quality and diversity of perspective that we, as Coloradans, use to inform our everyday lives.”

“The new logo reflects Colorado through the mark and color palette, giving equal weight to both Colorado and Public Radio. It is flexible and multidimensional, with a circular floral/sun icon incorporating repeated quotations to convey people in conversation. CPR inspires meaningful dialogue and healthy discourse among a variety of perspectives—a community that offers balance and insight,” stated Design & Image Partner/Creative Director Benjamin Gust. “It also captures the passion and diversity of CPR’s classical music programming, a powerful platform for generating discussion,” Gust added.

Inherent in the new branding strategy is the necessity to focus CPR’s finite resources on emphasizing Colorado Public Radio as the umbrella organization, rather than continuing to dilute brand equity by promoting three separate entities (Colorado Public Radio, KCFR News and KVOD Classical Music). Schenkein said all marketing communications, including on-air messaging, will no longer use call letters KCFR and KVOD, but will instead refer to CPR News or CPR Classical Music.

“By emphasizing and building the Colorado Public Radio brand, we will provide our stakeholders (listeners, listener-members, other donors, underwriters and strategic partners) with a more comprehensive rationale to provide support, as opposed to viewing us simply as a conduit for National Public Radio or classical recordings. Additionally, rather than continuing to provide three separate web sites for news, classical music and Colorado Public Radio, one consolidated web site,, will be launched in early January.

“This is a very exciting time for CPR and public radio in general,” stated Schenkein. “We anticipate audience ratings will experience a period of adjustment during the first six months of the new Arbitron portable people meter audience rating system, yet we expect the strong audience growth public radio has experienced over the last decade to continue,” he added. Schenkein noted this public radio growth is the exact opposite of trends experienced by other radio, television broadcasting and newspapers that continue to struggle. CPR’s audience approaches 400,000 listeners throughout the state. Nationally, public radio has a weekly audience of 32 million listeners who listen about 6.5 hours each week.

A major conclusion of the CPR research found that listeners are seeking balance in their lives. “While we can’t assume everyone’s definition of balance is the same, we know the notion of balance is certainly at the core of what public radio is about—offering balanced perspectives to engaged audiences. It’s clear that a great deal of CPR’s growth has come from listeners who are seeking a more balanced source for in-depth news and information,” said commented Barbee.

“This finding is not surprising since, across America, a major trend reflects people’s desire for more information and more news. People are more interested in public affairs than ever before. There is also a premium on knowledge. Learning how to leverage the new knowledge universe is one of the most important challenges we face. This includes new models of knowledge production, access and distribution, as listeners demand infinite sources of instant information, added Schenkein.

At a time when many newsrooms around the state are laying people off, Schenkein says CPR listeners are fortunate to have benefited from a recent multi-year $1.5 million news initiative from major donors that has allowed CPR to provide a local complement to NPR’s in-depth coverage. “The CPR news staff essentially doubled due to the initial funding of the news initiative, nearly all of which is now funded from operating funds supported primarily by listener donation,” said Schenkein.

CPR programming enhancements include CPR’s Colorado Matters, which was transformed into a timely daily issue-oriented interview program, together with the resources necessary to commit to hourly newscasts and the addition of reporters to the Morning Edition and All Things Considered news magazines. Dedicated beat reporters have been added, including an ongoing health reporter position funded by the Colorado Health Foundation. Pending additional funding, CPR would also like to expand Colorado Matters with a daily live talk show with listener input, as well as adding beat reporters in education, environment/energy and arts/culture. CPR, along with Los Angeles, recently received funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to conduct a local research project relating to developing programming that would have broader appeal to Denver’s large Latino audience.

In addition to the local news focus, Colorado Public Radio is Colorado’s only statewide network for classical music. CPR’s classical music station maintains an important cultural role in Colorado. Through key partnerships with classical music organizations like the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, among others, CPR provides access to quality classical music programming statewide.

Bob Schenkein is Vice President of Marketing for Colorado Public Radio. He is working to develop and implement strategic long term initiatives in the areas of branding, public and media relations, key partnerships, promotion, online support and community relationships.

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